It's a City-El Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV). It's a low speed, low range, lightweight, low cost vehicle for urban commuting and errands.
Here is the specifications page from McCllelan Air Force Base's Alternative Fuel Vehicles program. This is my translation of a German City-El expert's specifications page.
Yes, it's registered as a motorcycle. I happened to have California motorcycle license when I registered it; I have heard rumors that you don't really need a motorcycle license to drive one. I do know it would be impossible to take the either the motorcycle safety course or the standard motorcycle driver's test in this vehicle.
In a stock vehicle, certainly not, it's far too slow. Modified vehicles may be fast enough, but it's really not designed for that service.
No, it's a production vehicle. Originally designed and built in Denmark, they are now produced in Northern Germany by City-Com.
I paid $4000 for a slightly used vehicle with some delamination between the inner shell and the foam and a brand new set of batteries. Perfect, new vehicles, surplus from a study by Sacramento Municipal Utilities District, were going for $5000 at the time. New vehicles start from 12,000 Deustchmark (around $6700 US) FOB Germany, and go up from there. A fully loaded "Targa-Fun" is currently 16,498 DM ($9,166.38). Used vehicles run from about 7300 DM ($4000) for '93 vehicles with some miles, but new batteries to 11,000 DM ($6100) for nearly new vehicles with nice options. In Germany, you can also lease one for 99 DM/month ($55/month).
If you are in Europe, check here for a dealer. In the US, check with Gary Flo of InEVations, or Peter Senkowski of EVTranSport.
Yes. The longer answer is another question: Compared to what? For me, it replaces a bicycle. I felt pretty safe riding my bike in heavy traffic, but my City-El is absolutely more crashworthy than any bicycle. The body is constructed to absorb energy, I have a roll bar, and greater mass. Similarly, compared to a motorcycle or a scooter, it's clearly safer. It's also less of a danger to others than many road vehicles. But you are smaller, lower, lighter, and slower than many road vehicles, and you need to drive with this in mind.
The charger is onboard, and plugs into any 110V outlet (220 in Europe with a different transformer).
About 8 hours from full discharge.
My web site has pictures of my vehicle, additional information on insurance, spare parts, and translations of German City-El expert Ralf Wagner's excellent driving and maintenance pages. Check the other links on this page for more information
Only if they are small. The factory sells a child seat back and harness, and apparently a harness for attaching an infant seat to the lid of the battery compartment, which I have never seen.